California – Los Angeles: Best Friends Animal Society

Lauren Johnston

Lauren Johnston grew up in Northern California in a small town surrounded by trees and nature, so it was a big change going to college in a large city. She moved away from her quiet home life with two loving huskies, Denali and Sampson, and soon realized just how much she missed them. Lauren has always cared deeply about animals and wants to devote her life to their service as a veterinarian. This summer, she spent time volunteering with No Kill Los Angeles (NKLA), an initiative of Best Friends Animal Society.

 

Conveniently located 10 minutes from UCLA, NKLA aims to make Los Angeles a 90% No Kill City by 2017. They accomplish this by pulling shelter dogs from other shelters that would otherwise undergo euthanasia. The shelter gives these dogs and cats a second chance to find a home, and provides a warm, comfortable home for the rest of their lives in the West Los Angeles shelter. This volunteer experience provided the perfect opportunity for Lauren to get more involved in animal care.

 

During her volunteering shifts, Lauren was responsible for caregiving, cleaning, and dog walking. She was absolutely thrilled to work with the shelter because she was able to help dogs break out of their shells and find new, loving, forever homes. “You see them arrive to the shelter timid, shy, and super scared,” Lauren says, “but by the end of your short walk, they’re already sitting in your lap.”

 

Lauren gained many meaningful experiences from her time with the shelter. She learned to work through tough situations and make them into positive experiences for both her and the animal involved. For example, when she was frustrated with a stubborn dog who didn’t want to walk, she decided to pick the dog up and carry him to the shelter, which led the dog to feel nurtured and fall asleep comfortably. “This is the same dog that was ruining my day 15 minutes earlier, and now there was nothing but love. You can’t tell from looks which dogs are the biggest cuddlers or the most friendly.”

 

 

Lauren’s dedication to animals and philanthropy has led her to volunteer at other sites like Taking The Reins, which helps at-risk adolescent girls seek empowerment in their lives through horseback riding. “The girls come from impoverished families, often times terribly frightened of horses, but they grow to love the horses more than anything else and will participate in the program for five years and then go off to college.” The programs teach participants that setting your mind to something can be the first step in accomplishing it. Starting as young as 8 years old, the girls form strong, consistent relationships with their horses and mentors. Throughout the program, encouragement is key and support is always available.

 

In volunteering for these animal-centric organizations, Lauren provides comfort and consistency to the animals’ daily routines. Lauren believes that in our busy 21st century lives, many people overlook four-legged friends and forget that humans aren’t the only living things on this planet. “You can derive so much joy from animals that are loving and sweet.” Animals can be some of the most caring companions, and all they need in return is love and affection, according to Lauren. “We need to be able to take a step back from our busy lives and say ‘I need to go cuddle with a dog right now,’ because it’s a satisfaction that you can’t get anywhere else.”

 

And it’s a satisfaction that anyone can receive through volunteer opportunities like Lauren’s. If you would like to volunteer to work with animals, Lauren recommends reaching out to local veterinary offices, as they are often looking for assistance. Those who wish to volunteer with NKLA or Best Friends Animal Society may complete volunteer registration forms on their websites. The shelters host multiple orientations every month.

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